Felicity Beale Mixed Teams – A State Championship
The Felicity Beale Mixed Teams starts on March 11th and runs for 3 weeks.
Below is a tribute from Felicity’s daughter Jennie James
Felicity Beale, my Mum, was both a brilliant competitor in bridge, as well as a brilliant friend to the game and its players. Last year, in salute to Mum — who sadly passed away in 2016 — the Victorian Bridge Association decided to name their mixed teams event after her; this year the Felicity Beale Victorian Mixed Teams will start on March 11 and conclude on March 25.
In preparation for the tournament, Diana Smart — Mum’s women’s teams partner for 45 years — and I went through a number of photographs that were taken of Mum during her long bridge career. As we did so, memories came flooding back. The images — which will be shown during the tournament — track Mum and her friends and team-mates through their many bridge successes and adventures. But what also shines through is how Mum embraced bridge in all aspects of her life.
Bridge was part of Mum’s world from her earliest days. When she was a small child living in the former Yugoslavia, her parents, Kurt and Alice, played bridge devotedly. When the Second World War engulfed Europe and the little family had to make their way to Canada, they were held up in Madrid for some months waiting for the required visas. Kurt and Alice spent a part of that time playing bridge. Once in Toronto, Mum’s parents began importing European gourmet delicacies for their fellow Torontonians to enjoy; one of their suppliers was someone they had met in Madrid playing bridge.
When Mum moved to Australia in the 1960s, she did not initially turn her attention to bridge. Newly-married, she spent her first few years here starting her new life, and then starting her family. But by the early 1970s, her skill, and her strategic mind, had propelled her into a love affair with bridge that would last until her passing in 2016 — a period of almost 50 years.
As a player, Mum embraced bridge both passionately and thoughtfully. The result was a prestigious and pioneering bridge career in which Mum won 30 national team events, represented Australia internationally 27 times, and won four Asia-Pacific Women’s Teams championships — the first in 1973 — cementing her place as one of the first Australian women to enjoy sustained success at both the national and international level. Mum did not always blow her own trumpet about this amazing track record of achievement; I am so glad to now blow it for her.
Away from the card table, her love for bridge was equally strong. Words and phrases such as ‘no-trump’, and ‘dummy’ peppered her everyday conversation. In our home, fine china espresso cups covered in spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds were lovingly displayed alongside unique, colourful, chunky jugs and teapots in the shape of the heads and upper torsos of jacks and kings. Plates, fridge magnets, small figurines — anything that was covered in playing cards was fair game to adorn Mum’s shelves. Mum herself also became similarly adorned; she loved bridge-related jewellery and would often sport earrings in the shape of hearts and spades, or proudly wear a beautiful antique necklace of the four playing suits that was given to her by a dear friend.
But Mum’s love of bridge found perhaps its greatest expression in the slew of knitted masterpieces in her wardrobe. In the early 1970s, Mum entered the workroom of Melbourne artisan knitter and clothier Rachelle King and ordered a pale blue woollen vest with a huge ace of spades card embroidered on the front. It was the start of a great friendship and creative collaboration; for the next four decades, Mum bombarded Rachelle with demands for bridge-related sweaters and cardigans — some in red and black to correspond with jacks and kings, and others in all colours of the rainbow — for all manner of bridge occasions. No design was too wild. In one example, in 1980, when Mum represented Australia at the World Bridge Olympiad in Valkenburg, the Netherlands, Rachelle created a patchwork story cardigan for her. Into this remarkable garment Rachelle knitted — to name just a few items — an image of the bridge Olympics symbol, a kangaroo, some wool wattle hanging from one of the sleeves, a map with Valkenburg marked on it, and a koala holding a hand of cards.
It is impossible to overstate the degree to which bridge was one of Mum’s centres of gravity, and a source of such great joy for her. Many of the people she met through bridge became her fast friends, whether it be her long-time playing partners such as Diana (Smart), Robbie (van Riel), and Ian (McCance), or the many others with whom she enjoyed the kind of enduring and loyal friendships for which she was known and loved.
Often, late on a Wednesday evening after bridge had finished, Mum and her friends would head to a restaurant on Chapel Street where they would dissect with precision the hands that had been played earlier that evening, and then turn their attention to discuss opera, family, and any other subjects of the day. I hope all those that participate in the Felicity Beale Victorian Mixed Teams enjoy these Wednesday evenings of bridge, and life, as much as Mum did.
– Jennie James